TOWN PROFILE: Danville
The Town of Danville is at the heart of the San Ramon Valley, located between the commercial centers of Walnut Creek and San Ramon. This area is also part of the Tri Valley area, which also includes north eastern Alameda County. Danville offers a nice blend of small town feeling, upscale amenities, and superior housing. With a population near 45,000, Danville is known for its outstanding schools, abundant recreation, and an excellent quality of life. In using the name "Town" Danville distinguishes itself from other nearby communities, by emphasizing its values of rural tradition and limited commercial focus.
Danville is all about family life and a sense of security, while not being isolated either physically or culturally. This location is convenient to job opportunities and urban culture to the south and west; it is midway between San Francisco and San Jose, with access to the Bay Area core by nearby BART stations in Walnut Creek, Lafayette, and Dublin.
Danville is flanked by three other desirable high-value communities: Alamo, Diablo, and Blackhawk. While these are independent in many ways, they share schools and a broader sense of community with Danville. While Blackhawk is outside of the town limits, it is considered Danville by the Post Office, and Blackhawk Plaza draws clientele from both communities and San Ramon. Diablo comprises eclectic homes and a premier country club, but no commercial district. Alamo also offers a premier country club but has a thriving shopping and commercial center near the freeway. While each has independent attributes, many Home Buyers evaluate this community as a whole, but distinct from Walnut Creek and San Ramon.
Danville’s historic downtown offers shops, restaurants, and art galleries. There are many epicurean adventures ranging from premier restaurants, to exotic cafes, to pizzerias and other family-friendly fare. Arts and culture abound including the Village Theatre, The Museum of the San Ramon Valley, and the Tao House—home to Nobel laureate Eugene O'Neill.
One of Danville's most desirable attributes is its sense of community. The town hosts an array of events throughout the year from farmers' markets to street fairs to holiday celebrations. The Town's highly rated schools, executive homes, and abundant recreational activities add to the town's strong appeal.
When the Spanish influence arrived in the late 1790s, the Native Americans had been there for over 5,000 years. This land, part of what Spaniards called Yngerto Canada, initially was grazing range for cattle from Mission San Jose. Then during the Mexican period, as part of Rancho San Ramon, ownership shifted to the Castro and Pacheco families in 1833. But with little money and facing prejudice against Mexicans, they were unable to preserve or defend title under US jurisdictions after the Mexican American War.
Danville was settled and named during the Gold rush. Mining provided Daniel and Andrew Inman the money to buy land in 1854. Within four years, the community hosted a blacksmith, a hotel, a wheelwright, and a general store. In an article published years later, Dan Inman said that many options were considered. He and Andrew rejected "Inmanville" finally settling on Danville. Dan claimed that the town was named for Danville, Kentucky, his mother in law’s home town.
The Danville Post Office opened in 1860. The first postmaster, hotel owner Henry W. Harris, reported in 1862, that 20 people lived in the town, with nearly 200 registered voters from surrounding farms and ranches.
Drawn by stories of the prosperity, people from the East and Midwest began to settle in and around Danville. Most settlers were farmers attracted by the ideal combination of fertile land and moderate weather. By 1869 the census showed nearly 1,800 people in the combined area of Danville and Lafayette. Many were squatters on established haciendas and ranches, some of which dated back to Spanish and Mexican land grants.
Ranchers raised cattle and sheep; farmers grew wheat, barley, onions and feed for livestock. Later, orchards produced apples, plums, pears, walnuts and almonds. During the dry season horses pulled produce wagons north along Road No. 2, winding along San Ramon Creek to the docks at Martinez and Port Costa. But in the winter, roads were poor and Danville was a bit isolated for several months.
A remarkable number of early Danville buildings have been preserved including early homes belonging to the Boone, Osborn, Young, Root, Elliott, and Hartz families. The Danville Hotel and original 1874 Grange Hall remain as well. Many of the early pioneer names appear on the streets and schools.
Danville changed dramatically when the railroad arrived in 1891. Farmers built warehouses and could now ship crops in any kind of weather. John Hartz sold land and access for the train. He then subdivided and sold lots east of the station, shifting the town's focus from Front Street to Hartz Avenue. Eventually, a bank, drug store, saloon, doctor's office and Chinese laundry joined the homes lining the street. The Danville Hotel originally sat across from the station but was moved to face Hartz Avenue in 1927. In 1910 the school district began and San Ramon Valley Union High School was built; a library opened in 1913, then the Improvement League brought streetlights and paved roads in 1915.
During WWII a large hospital and convalescent facility was built in Danville including a huge pool for therapy. The administration building was converted to a private residence and the pool site is now covered with luxurious West Side homes.
Danville continued to be farm and ranch country well into the mid-century; a 1940 population of 2,120 had only grown to 4,630 by 1950. The opening of the Caldecott Tunnel and a postwar exodus from the urban areas drove limited growth in the 1950's. While much of Central Contra Costa became a geographical extension of the affluent Oakland/Berkeley Hills, growth was slower in Danville and what is now known as the Tri Valley.
During the 1950s, developments such as Montair and Cameo Acres were built, the water and sewer districts extended their boundaries, and the freeway expansion in the 1960s altered Danville permanently. By 1970 the population was nearly 16,000 and over 26,000 by the 1980s, when the Town incorporated in 1982. Within two decades the population would jump to over 40,000 in 2000, with extensive development on the south and east sides of town, in parallel with the growth of San Ramon.
Danville schools are considered to be excellent with some slightly more distinguished than others. As with many communities the homes served by the higher rated schools are typically higher priced.
All public schools in Danville are part of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which also serves San Ramon, Alamo, Blackhawk, Diablo, and all unincorporated areas from Alamo south to the Alameda County border. This is one of the largest districts in California but is considered to be well run and financially sound. The District is among the few in Northern California with a strong track record for providing special education programs for autistic, developmentally disabled, and special needs kids.
Twenty years ago, people looking for the best schools settled in Lamorinda or Piedmont, but the schools in the Tri Valley now have spectacular test scores and innovative programs. Both Monte Vista High and Dougherty Valley High are above long-prestigious Acalanes High in Lafayette, and Dougherty Valley is second only to Miramonte in Orinda in East Bay ranking.
All of the school scores are good. Above 900 reflects excellence, and scores above that level tend to fluctuate from year to year. At that point the opportunities are there for dedicated students, and outside opportunities and influences may be individually more critical.
Monte Vista High School - API 913
San Ramon Valley High School - API 884
Charlotte Wood Middle School - API 930
Stone Valley Middle School - API 905
Diablo Vista Middle School - API 925
Los Cerros Middle School - API 913
Creekside Elementary School - API 938
Green Valley Elementary School - API 915
Greenbrook Elementary School - API 942
John Baldwin Elementary School - API 958
Montair Elementary School - API 927
Sycamore Valley Elementary School - API 958
Tassajara Hills Elementary School - API 941
Vista Grande Elementary School - API 905
High Schools Map - Shows State API Score by Location
(Above 900 is excellent - Under 700 is scary)